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Steven Newcomb: 'Picking Fights with the Gods' is a must-read for Native people

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment | Opinion
More on: books, donald trump, paul gilk, steven newcomb

The #IndigenousRising hashtag is projected onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on April 28, 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

What book should every Native person read if they want to understand the meaning of "civilization" in the era of Donald Trump? Steven Newcomb (Shawnee / Lenape) of the Indigenous Law Institute offers a glowing review of Picking Fights with the Gods: A Spiritual Psychoanalysis of Civilization’s Superego by Paul Gilk:
Paul Gilk’s book Picking Fights with the Gods: A Spiritual Psychoanalysis of Civilization’s Superego (2016), is the product of a truly unique mind. I consider it a must-read for any Native person interested in better understanding what has resulted in the dispossession of our Native nations and peoples from our lands and traditional territories. Using a clear and accessible style, Gilk works to decipher and unpack the concept of “civilization,” and its rootedness in pathology. He reveals that the origin of “civilization” is found in the historical pattern of a tyrannical and bandit class that has used various means to portray itself as perfectly entitled to fatten and maintain itself on the resources of others. The Trump Era makes the book timely.

Gilk opens his book in an autobiographical manner. Raised on a farm in upper Wisconsin, when he reached his early 20s Gilk began asking a poignant question: “Why are small farms dying?” In the course of his research, he turned at one point to his Webster’s dictionary and looked up the word ‘peasant.’ He was surprised to find that it traced to the word ‘pagus,’ or “pagan.” This connection, combined with the investigations of a deeply curious mind, Gilk began to read a number of anthropologists, such as Lewis Mumford, and other thinkers, such as Arnold J. Toynbee, who wrote about the connection between patterns of domination and the rise of the great aristocracies of the world at the expense of Indigenous or original peoples and others who lived close to the land.

By becoming masters of violence, and skilled at expropriating the possessions of other peoples, those piratical bandits (“civilizations”) rose to power and prominence. They found that wealth begets wealth and power begets power.

Read More on the Story:
Steven Newcomb: Paul Gilk’s Picking Fights with the Gods: A Book Review (Indian Country Media Network 4/28)

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